Funny thing about death. When it calls for a loved one be it human or pet, grief accompanies the grim reaper. You choose the casket and write the obituary and plan the services and decide on the outfit for the deceased. Everyone acquainted with the family offers their sincerest condolences at the wake. Mailboxes are overstuffed with Hallmark cards or … in today’s technological saturated world, ‘Likes’ and ‘Hearts’, and ‘Teary Man’ are checked on your Facebook page. Then. [sigh] It is all over as the last mound of earth slides from the shovel.
Let me rewind to the planning of funeral services for it is the kernel of Pablo Larrain’s film Jackie, starring Natalie Portman. There is so much to say and feel about the iconic Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. She allowed the world to mourn with her as she exhibited poise during the funeral procession of her slain husband, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1963.
But have you ever wondered, exactly, what went into the fashioning of President Kennedy’s funeral? Was there any resistance to Mrs. Kennedy from the white house? If so, how did she handle it?
Let me rewind again: Have you ever thought about the atmosphere aboard Air Force One when Lyndon Johnson is sworn in as the 36th President of the United States as Mrs Johnson and Mrs Kennedy stand-by? Moreover, aside from shock and dismay, how do the people aboard Air Force One and, later, those within the White House react to and interact with Mrs. Kennedy after the national tragedy? Does the new widow keep it together? More to the point, how does the transition take place when the Johnsons move into the White House as Mrs. Kennedy still moves about the national home planning and packing and tending to her children John John and Caroline? Pablo Larrain superbly interprets these intimate occurrences. I have studied Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy right down to the style of shoes and the brand of stockings she wore, and I can tell you this movie gets her. It is obvious – maybe too obvious — that Portman studied each jot and tittle of Mrs. Kennedy’s voice and mannerisms. At times, though, I grew weary of her feathered ‘R’s and the open ‘A’s, spoken like ‘Ah’ in her well-known breathy voice.
Larrain remarkably imagines the Kennedy-Johnson transition as one of obvious discomfort and, surprisingly, irritation. Yes. irritation. In Jackie, Larrain plays up the tenuous situation between Mrs. Kennedy, the white house staff, and the Johnsons – the majority of these scenes shot in close and tight spaces. Some want to get on with matters of the state, as does President Johnson’s confidant, Jack Valenti, played by Max Casella. He has no patience for a discussion with the former first lady about her change of funeral plans. Others seem to … tolerate … the First Lady as does Lady Bird Johnson, played by Beth Grant. Stephane Fontaine’s cinematography and Mica Levi’s soundtrack pull together the necessary cinematic accents to amplify each prickly yet sensitive state of affair. Also, the behind the scenes details of private moments whereby public events meticulously are organized evoke sheer honor and respect for place and ceremony.
Yes. There is something about death and what it requires. Pablo Larrain’s Jackie dramatizes the necessity for its closure from the point of view of a former First Lady whose children, John John & Caroline, had to plan their mother’s memorial upon her death in 1994.
Jackie plays through January 26th at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.
Also playing at The Ross through January 12 is the French film Things to Come.
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